Battle over JNF leadership going back to court

Attorneys for Jewish National Fund/Keren Kaymet Leyisrael chairman to file a lawsuit against deal that would replace Stenzler with Sheetrit.

By GIL STERN STERN HOFFMAN
June 20, 2011 01:42
2 minute read.
JNF CHAIR EFI STENZLER

JNF CHAIR EFI STENZLER. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Attorneys for Jewish National Fund/Keren Kaymet Leyisrael chairman Effi Stenzler will file a lawsuit in Petah Tikva District Court on Monday against the parties that signed a deal that would replace Stenzler with former religious affairs minister Shimon Sheetrit.

Allies of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Shalom Simhon have been trying to replace Stenzler for more than a year – first with Simhon, then with Minister for Home Front Defense Matan Vilna’i, and now that both men have received promotions in the cabinet, with Sheetrit.

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When Barak, Simhon and Vilna’i left Labor and formed the Independence Party, they made sure their faction’s coalition agreement with Likud would earmark JNF for an Independence candidate. Steps are now being taken to implement the agreement with the backing behind the scenes of Likud officials.

The Jerusalem Post obtained an agreement signed on June 2 by representatives of the Artzeinu Reform faction in the World Zionist Organization, Kadima and its allies from the Conservative Movement’s Merkaz Olami, and Mizrachi/Israel Beiteinu, which together comprise a majority in the WZO.

Kadima supports the deal because it includes vast powers and financial benefits for its candidate to be co-chairman of JNF, MK Eli Aflalo. Sheetrit agreed to give Aflalo many of the powers that usually remain with the chairman in order to guarantee Kadima’s support.

Sources close to Stenzler called the deal corrupt and illegal, because only the Board of Directors at JNF can make decisions about money.

Labor secretary-general Hilik Bar sent a letter to Reform Movement leader Richard Jacobs signed by Labor MKs warning that if Artzenu does not stop trying to unseat Stenzler, the party would stop supporting the Reform Movement’s agenda in the Knesset.

Stenzler’s allies filed a complaint this week against Sheetrit, accusing him of numerous ethical violations, because he was Labor’s legal adviser in the court case during the battle between Simhon and Stenzler. The Petah Tikva District Court has accused Stenzler’s opponents, including Simhon and Sheetrit, of not telling the truth to the court.

“The KKL is loyal to the Jewish people and its land,” Stenzler said.

“For a year, I have been fighting against hostile attempts to take over the KKL and its democracy. I am proud to have taken the KKL from the verge of bankruptcy to good financial condition. I am fighting for KKL to remain honest and not let it be abused as a cash register for making its leaders wealthy.”

Sheetrit defended the agreement and expressed hope that when all the legal barriers have been passed, he will be allowed to become JNF chairman.

Simhon denied allegations that Sheetrit was only put up for the post in order to keep the seat warm for himself. He said the JNF chairman’s term ends in June 2014 and he expects to remain a cabinet minister until after the next general election, which he expects will take place on time in October 2013, which would not leave enough time to take the job.

“I am out of that game now,” Simhon said. “The fact that they are making such charges against me proves that they are not serious.”


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